Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) has installed a new vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) in its new 106,000-square-foot distribution center in Fairfield, N.J. The conveyor raises pallets of empty totes and consumable materials from floor level to a 10,000-square-foot concrete mezzanine that is situated 13 feet, six inches above. The mezzanine was added to the facility when Rochester Drug moved in a year ago, and it houses many of the automated picking functions within the new Fairfield DC.
RDC is the nation's seventh-largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, serving pharmacies and related stores in the Northeastern U.S. The New Jersey operation, which complements the company's main facility in Rochester, N.Y., primarily serves the metro New York City area, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In addition to the vertical conveyor, the company installed an A-frame automated picking system, carousels, and extensive conveyor systems in the building.
There were two main reasons for choosing a vertical conveyor rather than using forklifts to hoist pallets to the mezzanine. "It was really a necessity to be safer and to save time," says Gary Ritzmann, RDC's project manager for the new facility. "The mezzanine is almost 14 feet high, so using a forklift is precarious at best, and we are trying to keep motorized vehicles away from all order processing equipment."
The vertical reciprocating conveyor is a Series 21 two-post hydraulic material lift from PFlow Industries. Atlantic Handling Systems of Fair Lawn, N.J., handled the specifying and installation. (Atlantic also installed pallet racking and shelving in the building.) Ritzmann says the VRC was an easy choice for the New Jersey DC, as his company had experience with a similar unit in the New York facility.
The unit has an eight-foot-wide platform, so two full pallets of totes or consumables weighing up to 3,000 pounds can be placed on it at a time. The platform then travels at 24 feet per minute. It takes about 30 seconds to reach the mezzanine, where a pallet jack unloads the pallets.
Since its installation, the PFlow VRC has worked flawlessly to keep the mezzanine stocked with totes and consumables. "So much so that it is never really thought of," says Ritzmann. "It needs no special attention, no repairs so far—it just keeps working every day, in the background, just working."
A version of this article appears in our August 2016 print edition under the title "An uplifting system."